(for my sister Laurie and all the Christmases we've shared)
On Christmas Eve I revisit other years, other places. Tonight was an authentic Kelly marathon of Charlie Brown, the Grinch and a Los Angeles interpretation of the holiday season, written and directed by Shane Black, called KISS, KISS, BANG, BANG. Robert Downey, Jr. I rest my case. You might call us semi-traditionalists.
Most often I replay scenes from my childhood, though the reveries may veer into last-minute wrapping marathons his father and I shared when our son was wearing footed pajamas.
Tonight I see my younger sister and me; we have gotten into our bunk beds, too excited to sleep even for a minute - or so we believe - and our bedroom door is closed since it opens right onto the living room, site of the tree, the fireplace, Santa and the presents. Five years separate us, which can be a vast gulf when one is 10 and the other 5, but on Christmas Eve we are just girls, filled with wonder and anticipation. Our brother's room is in another part of the house...too far for whispering. I wonder if it was a bit lonely for him, especially on those nights. I will remember to ask him.
Eventually we gave in to a light, reluctant sleep and awoke to find that our stockings had been left at the feet of our beds. Whichever of us woke first let the other one know that Santa HAD been there and in the dark, being as quiet as we could while describing every surprise we pulled out, we explored toys and sampled candy.
I think of her tonight, several thousand miles away. We have only shared one Christmas - and no Christmas Eves - in the past 20-plus years, yet under our tree sits, as her gift tag describes it, "the most beautiful purse I ever saw" and hints of the creams and potions for our aging skins which it contains. Over the decades she has unearthed objects of amazement; the jointed, handcrafted rat with the sweet potato-shaped nose and articulated tail, the flea market photo album and post card collection. This year's flowered purse reminds me of a stocking already laid at my feet and I feel how much I miss her, I miss our girl selves and even our grown sisterly exchanges in the days when Joseph Magnin existed and had its annual collection of figural gift boxes. There is a mixed sense of curiosity, longing, gratitude and loss as I look at the lovely presents she has sent, yet know that, given the chance, I might trade them all to be those young dream believers again.
May all your Christmas wishes come true while absent loved ones nestle in your hearts. And do not doubt this: the magic endures and we are part of it.